Burnt Ends @ Teck Lim Road

Burnt Ends is no stranger to publicity as it has been featured on the New York Times, and named among the hottest restaurants of 2014 on Zagat.

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It is a collaboration between Loh Lik Peng (local hotelier/restauranteur) and Andre Chiang (of Restaurant Andre). Kitchen is helmed by Aussie David Pynt – who has had a long history with barbecue (in Aus & London), therefore – he makes the perfect fit at Burnt Ends, which as you might have guessed, serves smoked/ grilled/ wood-fired dishes.

As such, I would consider a good oven to be the backbone of support at such a restaurant, as all its dishes rely on it. Sure enough, their oven was custom-built to accommodate different temperature settings for different dishes at once. This can go up to 1,700 degC. Another system that caught my eye was the open grill, that can be lowered and raised using a lever. This was also custom and designed by David Pynt himself.

Look around the restaurant, it is small with only 18 seats along a bar counter. There is a no-reservations policy except for the chef’s table – which takes reservations almost 2 months in advance and has a min spend of $100/head. Of course, it is worth every penny. The open concept restaurant lets you witness the start-to-finish of your dish, and more interestingly, the theatrics of this lively kitchen. There is non-stop movement and action that adds to the unmissable burnt ends experience.

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I started with a warmed oyster ($6), which is a fresh raw oyster in delicious hot soup – I made out melted butter and white wine.

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Next we had the smoked quail eggs, their signature ($6 for 5). The egg is bouncy on the outside and when you bite into it, the yolk explodes in your mouth like a tasty revelation. The smokiness from the grill is perfectly conveyed to you via the eggs, which makes it the perfect introduction to the restaurant, and start to our meal.

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On a separate visit, we had the smoked quail eggs with caviar ($15 for one). It adds a decadent texture to the classic dish, but you can do without it.

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Fennel with orange and burrata was a well balanced blend of creaminess and tanginess – with added crunch.

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Their other signature is the Burnt Ends Sanger, which has in it pulled pork, cole slaw, chipotle aioli in a brioche bun ($20).

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The Iliocostalis ($14) was a small piece of beef, with crispy fats around it, and tender meat in the center. Served with mustard. Came highly recommended by our waiter with reason, if you are looking for a savoury starter, or meats in small portions.

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The only main we ordered was the flank with burnt onion and bone marrow ($23 per 100g). Even though flank is usually the cheaper part of a cow, this was amazingly tender. It was beautiful watching our chef cut up the piece of cooked meat to reveal the red rareness of the meat inside. Would do this again 1 million times.

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Dessert came in the form of a burnt lemon sherbet, blueberry compote, marshmallow and crumble. It would have been perfect without the blueberry which overwhelmed the dish and confused our tastebuds. ($12)

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I find the dishes reasonably priced for this standard. Definitely deserves a revisit.

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Bincho @ Tiong Bahru

Bincho shares the same shop space as tiong bahru’s acclaimed Hua bee mee pok. Hua bee makes use of the front half, so take the back entrance for bincho.

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Essentially, bincho is a yakitori restaurant. But that is quite the understatement. I visited for lunch – they do yakitori rice bowls set lunch for $25-30. It is definitely one of the best, and most value for money set lunches in Singapore.

My dining companion ordered a pork don while I ordered a chicken patty don (they go by their japanese names on the menu, but I cannot remember them).

The set lunch comes with a slew of side dishes, and first of the lot is this cooked chicken/ carrot/ radish/ onion dish, drizzled with a light soupy gravy. Heart warming and appetizing.20140701-090305-32585673.jpg

Next was the salmon skin salad. Who doesn’t like fried salmon skin, right? Dressing for the salad was also a winner.

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Chicken wings in sweet sauce. I was surprised by their generosity. There were so many side dishes, and all of them quite good.

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Miso soup was special, they added some beans/ bits inside to add a crunchy texture. It was fun to drink the soup. I suspect they cooked the soup with pork bone because there is a unique flavour.

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If you have a small appetite, you might already be full by now. But the dons finally arrive and they are amazing!

My chicken patty don came with sweet potato, zucchini, jalapeño, onions, ginger, and topped with raw egg. I cleaned up the bowl spotless. So delicious. The chicken patty was so thick and juicy. I enjoyed the vegetables too because I don’t like too much meat. And the raw egg just took it to another level. I can’t even. I suspect this might be their signature dish, because it is at the top of their menu?

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My dining companion’s pork don came with a generous serving of pork, onions, and ginger on the side. The pork was a bit tough in my opinion, but it isn’t my favourite meat to begin with. My partner liked it though.

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Ended off with either a black sesame or green tea ice cream.20140701-090001-32401780.jpg

The gastronomic journey was exciting, and very affordable. Everybody should try bincho. There is no reason not to! I can see myself going back again and again for lunch. I wouldn’t mind going alone, or with an old friend for a catch up session. Note that it is not suitable for big groups as it is a very small place.

If you are interested in dinner, they have set meals at $60, 80, 120. Which I feel is reasonable as there is a lot more food.

aside: a few interesting things…

-it would be nice to cross over to plain vanilla nearby for a post-meal coffee and cake. I love the outdoor spacious concept of this space.

-furniture, chopsticks, etc are shared between Hua bee and bincho. It is interesting to see their different takes on the same items. While Hua bee looks old school, bincho looks rustic chic.

-menus are written on blackboards on the wall. There are no paper menus. If you have difficulty reading, they will happily take the blackboard off the wall, and hold it up in front of you!

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Bam! Tapas Sake Bar @ Tras Street

I do enjoy a good sake every now and then, but realize it is never consumed outside of japanese cuisine. Whereas wine and beer are universally accepted.

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I guess the founders of Bam think so too – executive chef of now defunct Santi at Marina Bay Sands worked together with sake expert Derrick Lim to start Bam, where tapas plates are recommended to be paired with their extensive list of sake. The choice to serve sake in wine glasses is also a symbol of fusing two different cultures.

The adventurous concept does not stop there. Dishes incorporate fine ingredients from Japan, Spain and around Asia into Spanish style dishes. The results were impressive – creative, refined, and tasty.

The first dish we had was “kampong egg with baby sotong and chorizo ($16)” This was great, but to be fair, you really can’t go wrong with a runny egg. But to add, everything on the plate was so refined, even baby sotong. It was a perfect deep fried golden down, crispy and flavourful. The textures of the crispy + runny + ham = winning formula.

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Next, we had “uni with burrata, salicorn and chicken soft bones ($33)”. This was foodgasmic. With every bite I put into my mouth, I closed my eyes and imagined a better world. Creamy uni mixed with milky buratta, why has this never been done before? They are a match made in food heaven and I still remember the explosion in my mouth today. I will go back just for this dish.

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“Pasta a la plancha with prawns and sake butter ($26)” was a bit less revolutionary, but comfort food at its best. Fresh and plump shrimp!20140701-085643-32203912.jpg

We ordered a bottle of sake to accompany our food. And all in all it was about $200 for everything. Prices are a bit steep here, considering the portions. But if you are in a group of friends and you are sharing it, it isn’t that bad. Plus it is deffo quality food.

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I really like the concept, and am happy that sake is growing more popular in Singapore.

Bye!